ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- For the first time in almost 30 years, St. Louis County Library will ask voters for a tax levy increase.
The proposed six-cent increase would fund $108 million in capital improvements, which would include replacing five branches, along with major renovations and upgrades.
If the measure passes, the average homeowner in St. Louis County would pay an extra $17 a year in property taxes.
St. Louis County Library Director Charles Pace said the improvements are long overdue. And he said at less than $2 a month, voters are making an important investment in their public library system.
"Most people will recognize the value of the library. They recognize what we add to the community," Pace said.
The plan calls for tearing down and rebuilding the library's headquarters off Lindbergh Boulevard in Ladue. Pace said the building was constructed in the 1960s. The last major renovation took place in the late 1980s.
Pace said because of the way the headquarters was built, only about a third of the space can be used by the public. He explained that the stacks and lower levels of the building allow for limited mobility.
Pace said he understands voters will develop pro and con positions to the proposed tax levy. He said he knows some taxpayers will object to renovations at time when many companies and households are cutting back.
“We've been trying as hard as possible to make each dollar go as far as possible," he said. "But we're at a point now, where really to go forward, we're going to have to ask for significant, additional investments from the taxpayers."
Pace said the workforce at the County Library has been reduced by ten percent, through attrition. He added fewer delivery trips and more self-checkout options have cut down costs.
While electronic books and the internet have kept some people away from the library, Pace points out that attendance at the St. Louis Public Library has increased steadily since 2008, when the economic downturn began.
An independent committee will begin a campaign in the coming weeks to bring attention to the proposed tax increase.